During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, many sided with the Germans, but many others resisted and created a movement dedicated to sabotage and to the rescue of Jews and Gentiles in danger. Fran and Mies Braal, one such couple, opened their country home to children of Resistance members and to a wounded Canadian airman. Alma tells the true story of this brave family through the voice of an anonymous fictional narrator, using invented dialogue and imagined scenarios to describe daily life in the home. Frightening moments—Nazis on search, false alarms, illness (hepatitis)—punctuate a routine which includes a makeshift education for the children. In her epilogue, the author explains her use of this narrator, whom she would like to “stand for all children who go through war” as a way to tell the real story from a young person’s perspective. However, this fictionalization combined with the real characters and black-and-white historical photographs may leave readers confused about how the nameless, genderless protagonist fits in. (historical note, glossary, further readings) (Fictionalized nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-88899-791-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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Plenty of work for sharp eyes and active intellects in this history-based series opener.


From the Spy on History series , Vol. 1

Using a provided packet of helpful tools, readers can search for clues along with a historical spy in the house of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.

Fans of ciphers and hidden clues will find both in abundance, beginning on the copyright page and continuing to a final, sealed-off section of explanations and solutions. Fictionalized but spun around actual figures and events, the tale centers on Bowser, a free African-American who worked undercover as a maid in Davis’ house and passed information to a ring of white Richmond spies. Here she looks for the key phrase that will unlock a Vigenère cipher—an alphabetic substitution code—while struggling to hide her intelligence and ability to read. As an extra challenge, she leaves the diary in which she records some of her experiences concealed for readers to discover, using allusive and sometimes-misleading clues that are hidden in Cliff’s monochrome illustrations and in cryptic marginal notations. A Caesar cipher wheel, a sheet of red acetate, and several other items in a front pocket supply an espionage starter kit that readers can use along the way; it is supplemented by quick introductions in the narrative to ciphers and codes, including Morse dashes and dots and the language of flowers.

Plenty of work for sharp eyes and active intellects in this history-based series opener. (answers, historical notes, biographies, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7611-8739-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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The frequently told story of the Underground Railroad has, claims Haskins, all too often ``played up the extent of its organization and the efforts of whites, especially Quakers, and played down the less organized efforts of slaves, free blacks and other whites.'' Here, he focuses more on people than process in his account of the antislavery movement, the increasingly harsh measures against fugitives in the 19th century, and the courageous work of several stationmasters and conductors dedicated to helping escapees; coded songs and other subterfuges designed to spread the word are also discussed. Haskins devotes a chapter to Harriet Tubman, one to John Brown (author of an important fugitive slave narrative), and another to some ``passengers'' who succeeded in escaping largely on their own, and concludes with the 13th Amendment and the Railroad's transmutation to legendary status. Though this brief account helps set the record straight, its dry, didactic prose limits appeal, especially for collections that already own Shaaron Cosner's Underground Railroad (1991). Archival photos, bibliography, and index not seen. (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-590-45418-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1993

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